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Holiday Travel Tips for Children with Autism

December 16, 2022

The holiday season is usually a time of traveling. But, while flying across the country or driving across the state is a time-honored tradition for many families, traveling can also present unique challenges for many people.

For personal care assistants, traveling with in-home care patients involves busy schedules, long road trips, and navigating lines at the airport. This can be especially difficult when traveling with a child with Autism, as it’s an unexpected disruption from the security of their usual schedules. Yet, despite these obstacles, the rewards of being with loved ones for the holidays should outweigh the hassles of traveling.

To minimize disruptions, PCAs and family caregivers should take steps to help their home care clients travel this holiday season comfortably.

Traveling with Autism: How To Plan and Prepare

Whether your holiday plans involve heading cross-country or just down the street, we have a few helpful tips to ensure your holidays are fun and filled with love—not stress!

Plan Ahead

Have several conversations with the child before the trip to ensure they understand what to expect. For example, use social stories to explain the standard procedure for passport checks, boarding a plane, or other activities that might be overwhelming for the child.

If flying, you can also speak to the airline ahead of time and request a seat reserved for disabled travelers, if necessary, or ask to board early to give you enough time to get the child settled and calm before take-off.

Break Often

If you’re driving a long distance, make plans to stop once every 1-2 hours to stretch and get fresh air. Pack plenty of snacks and beverages for the trip and any reassuring objects, such a a favorite game or toy, to entertain the child.

It’s also vital to keep a consistent schedule. Most home care providers agree that creating and maintaining a consistent schedule is essential for kids with autism, so try to blend this with your travel plans so that you still have lunch at the same time, for example. This may also help your child feel safer and more secure—even with changes in surroundings.

Pack Smart

Some airports will organize a quiet space for you in the airport so that your child has somewhere safe and sensory-friendly to go. However, if you’re on the move, you can also create a sensory space for "on-the-go" travel by packing a backpack full of calming toys, music, noise-canceling headphones, and a blanket to make a little den for your child to escape to.

Of course, this depends on what suits your child and helps to calm them. Think about what techniques you use daily and what could be adapted to take with you while traveling.

If you need further advice on traveling with your child with autism, don’t hesitate to reach out! Best Care has plenty of resources to help you stay happy and safe this holiday season. You can also check out the Autism Speaks website for more travel tips!

Whether you're traveling this year or staying home, we wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy holiday season! 

A child looks in awe at a lit Christmas tree
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